It’s time for another top 5! I have no idea what prompted this list, but I felt like counting down some of the more overlooked or improperly maligned animated movies. So yeah, let’s get on with the list.
#5 – Anastasia
Easily the most under-appreciated of Don Bluth’s works, Anastasia reveals itself to be more enjoyable every time I watch it. While it does have some major issues with historical inaccuracy, a bad guy that’s largely disconnected from the plot and a cartoon bat, Anastasia is still a very enjoyable film, though it may take a few views to reveal its merits. With the help of what at the time was state-of-the-art computer technology, Don Bluth’s signature animation has never looked sharper or more vibrant and the musical numbers are soaring and memorable. The film even garnered two Oscar nods for Musical or Comedy Score (a category that doesn’t exist anymore) and Original Song for Journey to the Past. Anastasia was Don Bluth’s most commercially successful film, but it gets a bad rap from people who saw it as little more than a Disney rip-off. Really, this is Don Bluth at the top of his game and Don Bluth ain’t Disney.
#4 – The Hobbit
No, dummie, I’m not talking about the upcoming Peter Jackson film. I mean the original Hobbit, a mostly forgotten British animation from Rankin/ Bass ala 1977. I find it astonishing that what Peter Jackson is taking two (likely 2.5 – 3 hour long) movies to do was once accomplished from beginning to end in 77 minutes. This film runs over the story and the animation can be cheap, but it still has a distinct quality to it, that can actually only be defined as Rankin/ Bass. Everything they made looked cheap and cool at the same time. 20 years from now that style of animation will make an ironic come-back thanks to whatever the hell hipsters will evolve into. The songs are mostly goofy too, but there’s something enduring and delightful about this little film. Even though it’s short and a little cheesy, it manages to capture the magic of Tolkien in a way that delighted me as a kid when I first saw it.
#3 – The Prince of Egypt
It’s not often that Hollywood makes Bible-based movies and even less often that they decide to animate them. The Prince of Egypt was a risky move. It was Dreamworks Animation’s first film (a fact people always seem to forget) and was, at the time, the most expensive animated film ever made. To spend so much money on something that people respond as apathetically toward as The Bible is probably the riskiest move any animation studio ever took, but it paid off. The Prince of Egypt has stunning animation, a great voice cast and, best of all, it isn’t afraid to get serious when it needs to. Even the songs are good. The Prince of Egypt is often shrugged off as some kind of forgettable Sunday School lesson, but it’s much more than that. It’s a powerful story, powerfully told and it deserves to be remembered.
#2 – Cats Don’t Dance
I seriously love this movie. I loved it when I watched it as a kid and I recently re-watched it and I was shocked by how well it holds up. Cats Don’t Dance is awesome! First off, I honestly think this movie has the greatest animated movie villain of all time. I know that’s a bold claim, but I have yet to see an animated villain that electrifies the screen and ignites the audience’s hatred as much as Darla Dimple. She’s simply awful in all the best ways. The rest of the movie is great too; from the fast, witty dialogue, to Randy Newman’s catchy tunes, to the surprisingly well-choreographed dance routines. This movie is a tribute to Hollywood’s glorious past, with a cat version of Fred Astaire facing an oppressive Shirley Temple knock-off who refuses animal rights in a striking parallel to the fight for rights that black performers went through. It’s a unique concept and it’s seen through with bright and heart-warming results. I’ve never understood why some people don’t like Cats Don’t Dance.
#1 – My Neighbors the Yamadas
I had to have an anime on the list somewhere. I chose this one because most people haven’t heard of it and yet everyone seems obsessed with Studio Ghibli these days. Yet, when listing favourite Ghibli films no one ever seems to even remember My Neighbors the Yamadas, possibly because they haven’t even heard of, or seen it, which is so unfortunate, because it’s one of their best films. My Neighbors the Yamadas is about a family in Japan. That’s it. That’s the entire plot description. It’s based on a comic strip, so it’s like if Family Circus was made into a movie with no plot where all the comic strips were animated and strung together into an hour and a half film. This may sound boring or tedious, but it’s unbelievably rewarding. You’ll feel by the end of the film like you’re a part of this crazy, disorderly, and hilarious Japanese family. More than that, you’ll feel like you want to be a part of this family too. Check this one out sometime if you get the chance.
Well, that about wraps up my list. I know there are tonnes of underrated gems out there and a few I even cut off this list at the last minute. Let me know what animated movies you love that other people just don’t seem to get, by leaving me a comment below!